NOVEL TRIP TO SIX FLAGS GREAT ADVENTURE

Thursday, May 9, 2013 10:35 PM

NOVEL DAY AT SIX FLAGS GREAT ADVENTURE

My trip to SFGA on Sunday, May 5 proved to be a novel adventure because I did a few things I hadn’t done before and learned more about the park. For one thing, instead of borrowing my dad’s car to get there, I decided to go on a New Jersey Transit bus, as I didn’t feel up to driving. This meant that I would be stuck at the park for 10 hours (5 or 6 hours is usually my limit) and would have to find new ways to amuse myself.

The first thing I did when I got to the park was go to Guest Relations and try to talk my way into getting a behind the scenes tour of El Toro which would show park staff walking the track, testing the trains and doing whatever else they have to do before the park opens to the public. I said that I could write a good piece and probably get it published somewhere. No dice. I was told that they do only one tour a year for ACE. Well, I tried.

So it was on to Nitro, where I got four quick rides and was tempted to try to set a record for number of consecutive rides but this didn’t seem to make a lot of sense so I moved on to Batman. Until recently I had avoided Batman like the plague, having observed it numerous times from the loading station of Nitro and thinking that it must be torture. However, I finally got around to riding it on my last visit to the park and actually found that I enjoyed the ride.

Being sleep-deprived, I went to the Lost and Found and asked where I could get a decent cup of coffee. (Alas, no Starbucks at SFGA!) I was directed to the internet café (I think they call it Cyber Café or something like that) and to my delight, discovered that they make a decent cup of cappuccino and also offer ice cream on waffle cones. Yum!

I made a quick stop at the Flash Pass station – no, I didn’t buy one because there was no need to – to find out whether they had made any progress in implementing the new system. The director of operations at the park had told me in an email that they planned to roll out a new system within the next several months so that experienced FlashPass users could bypass the training video and get checked in more quickly. I was told that they’re still working on it and haven’t been able to get it all properly computerized yet.

From there I proceeded to Kingda Ka and ran into three young men, two of whom were waiting for the second row and the other of whom was waiting for the front row. Bingo! Single rider. (It would be nice if SFGA had a line for single riders or attempted to pair them up with other single riders the way some parks, such as Cedar Point, do.) The guy in the seat next to me was clearly terrified and asked whether I would hold his hand throughout the ride. Why not? I was happy to oblige. When he and his friends went off to ride El Toro, I decided to have another go on KK and again found a single rider for the front row. After the second ride, instead of walking back the way I had come, I decided to walk through the animal safari, where I saw some goats, potbellied pigs and a very noisy parrot. Much to my surprise, when I reached the exit I was just a short distance from El Toro. I hadn’t realized that this shortcut existed, so I learned something new.

Whereas there had been virtually no wait to get on anything I had ridden thus far, there was about a 20-minute wait to get on El Toro. I sat in the back, as usual, and for the first time since going to SFGA, did not derive the maximum enjoyment from this ride due to a wardrobe malfunction. I always wear pants or cargo shorts with zipper pockets and store my wallet and cell phone in the front right pocket. Because the pants I was wearing have shallower pockets than some others I own, the restraints were causing these items to dig into my right thigh and causing me considerable pain.

A ride on Bizarro was fun and I thought about having another but I can’t release the seatbelt and feel like a moron as a result. Someone on this site – I think it was Vater – gave me instructions on how to get out of the seatbelt and while I have managed to accomplish this on other rides, I simply can’t do it on Bizarro. So I decided to try something new. I had never ridden Runaway Train because I figured it was a kiddie ride but it was in the same general area and I had nothing better to do so I rode it. It was OK although I found it rather bumpy for a steel coaster.

Of course I had to have at least one more ride on El Toro but after the second ride I gave up. By now I had large red welts on my thigh and was afraid that the next day I’d be black and blue. It was clearly time to move on.

Back to Kingda Ka for another shot of adrenaline and another single rider in the front row. Must have been my lucky day! Then back to Batman. In all my visits to the park I had never ridden the Dark Knight and never had any desire to ride it, but again, what else did I have to do? It took me a long time to find the entrance but find it I did. When I saw that the cars on this ride never stop, I thought yikes, I’m going to have to be able to jump in and out of this thing in a hurry. Anyway, it’s not one of my favourite rides but I found it rather entertaining.

The last ride of the day was again on Nitro, where I ran into the same three guys I’d met on Kingda Ka. The guy whose hand I had held during the ride on KK asked me to sit with them in the front row. Again, happy to oblige. Just before the train was dispatched, he said “How can you be so calm? You look like you’re waiting for dinner to be served.” Lol. Well, if he’d ridden it as often as I have, he’d be calm enough to fall asleep on the lift hill. Man, that chain lift is slow. I think they do it on purpose to keep you in suspense. Apollo’s Chariot is very similar to Nitro in design but on Apollo you’re at the top in almost no time.

After my usual dinner of fries and a milkshake at Johnny Rockets, I was thinking about how to get warm. It had gotten quite cool and I was underdressed. I don’t usually buy merchandise at the park but knowing that the NJ Transit buses are almost invariably late in picking up the park patrons to take them back to Philly, I ended up buying a Six Flags sweatshirt. And as anticipated, the bus was indeed late. One woman was cursing like mad and a few others joined in. We did eventually get home and except for the bus, it was a very good day at the park.

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Friday, May 10, 2013 8:48 AM

I guess it can never hurt to ask, but on what planet do they just let people who ask do behind the scenes tours or roller coasters?

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Friday, May 10, 2013 2:01 PM

Not on this planet! I just thought that because I'm a freelance writer with a roller coaster blog and a couple of articles published on a theme park website they might possibly consider it. If I worked in the roller coaster industry and had a following it might be a different story but even with better credentials I doubt that SFGA needs any more publicity.

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Friday, May 10, 2013 2:40 PM

Somehow a bit unlike every other, but it was an enjoyable read.

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Friday, May 10, 2013 3:04 PM

I suppose it's possible to get a publicity tour, but I don't think that trying to arrange it at guest services the morning of your visit is the way to go about it.

Also, and I don't mean this insensitively, it probably also depends on what the site is for which you write. I've done freelance writing myself, but the site was tiny, and honestly, I wouldn't have even dreamed of asking for a behind-the-scenes tour. I can think of maybe only two or three sites that could pull that off, this one included.

I have been able to go to a couple of media days, but that was the extent of it, and even then, I didn't even get the invite myself. The webmasters got them and just designated me as the rep who went.

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Friday, May 10, 2013 3:27 PM

I agree that there would have been a better way to go about it but didn't think they'd grant me this privilege regardless of what I said or did. It never hurts to ask, however - and a lot depends upon whom you ask. I left my calling card with someone at the hospitality booth of Six Flags Fiesta on April 29 and as a result got an email inviting me to the media event on May 15. Of course that's a lot different from getting a behind the scenes tour. As to the media event, I only yesterday realized that I could attend by virtue of being a Coaster Buzz member.

Oh well, we all have our fantasies. My fantasy is to make a behind-the-scenes video of El Toro and push the button or flip the switch that sets the trains in motion. I'd love to know more about the operation of a roller coaster, as my experience is solely as a rider. I'd like to know what the ride ops are looking for when they say "visual scan" before dispatching the train but I'll probably never know.

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Friday, May 10, 2013 3:52 PM

Well, as a former Ride Op, I can assure you that the whole visual scan thing is one of the hokiest practices out there. Any good Ride Op is scanning the whole time anyway. I appreciate the thought behind it, but I think it's pretty pointless in the grand scheme of things.

I will say that being a Ride Op can be pretty fun in many respects, at least when you're part of a great crew. I loved the Top Thrill Dragster crew of which I was a part (and the Millennium Force crew with whom I did an exchange tour, even if they were our rivals). I also have very fond memories of the entire rides group from Geauga Lake. I was on the X-Flight crew there, and sometimes on crowded days, the crew from Mr. Hyde's Nasty Fall, which never seemed to work properly, would come over and combine with us to get a full double-station setup going. Those were some wonderful memories.

As far as pushing buttons to dispatch trains, the most enjoyable buttons were the two launch buttons on Top Thrill Dragster. That was the ultimate chill position. You'd just sit there and press those two buttons over and over. Good times.

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Friday, May 10, 2013 5:03 PM

There's plenty to do at the park to kill time like the sea lion show. You also missed alot of rides , like Superman, Green Lantern, Skull Mountian, and Sky Screamer to name a few. I don't get the hatred of TDK, its a nicely themed mouse that is alot smoother than most of the crappy ones out there! I ride it everytime i go there and its great on a hot summer day to go in and cool off in the AC. The new safari ride will be opening in a few weeks which should be pretty good. I will check that out so i can get some cool pics of the animals without having to hear security yelling at me to roll up my window.lol

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Monday, May 13, 2013 2:10 PM

I rode Superman and Skull Mountain on previous visits and didn't like either of them. I would do Superman again only because I will be going to the park with someone who really likes it so I'll ride it to keep her company. My problem with Superman is that despite being harnessed in snugly and having my feet shackled, I felt as if I was going to fall out of the train - and I think that's because the area from the hips to the lower legs is sort of in limbo. Got knocked around a lot on Skull Mountain and won't do Green Lantern because I have back problems and cannot do standup coasters as a result. I was almost about to ride Mantis at Cedar Point but when I got to the loading area and saw how the riders are positioned I changed my mind, as that would only be inviting disaster.

I do like TDK and will definitely ride it again on my next visit. I can well imagine that it would be a good way to cool off on a hot day, especially after Batman. I haven't ridden Batman in the summer but by all accounts, it gets very hot in the area between the entrance and the loading platform.

I'd seen the sea lion show before and caught the end of an otter show.

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Monday, May 13, 2013 2:20 PM

sirloindude said:

Well, as a former Ride Op, I can assure you that the whole visual scan thing is one of the hokiest practices out there. Any good Ride Op is scanning the whole time anyway. I appreciate the thought behind it, but I think it's pretty pointless in the grand scheme of things.

I will say that being a Ride Op can be pretty fun in many respects, at least when you're part of a great crew. I loved the Top Thrill Dragster crew of which I was a part (and the Millennium Force crew with whom I did an exchange tour, even if they were our rivals). I also have very fond memories of the entire rides group from Geauga Lake. I was on the X-Flight crew there, and sometimes on crowded days, the crew from Mr. Hyde's Nasty Fall, which never seemed to work properly, would come over and combine with us to get a full double-station setup going. Those were some wonderful memories.

As far as pushing buttons to dispatch trains, the most enjoyable buttons were the two launch buttons on Top Thrill Dragster. That was the ultimate chill position. You'd just sit there and press those two buttons over and over. Good times.

That is very interesting and informative! I would never have asked the ride ops because 1) it would be wrong to distract them from getting the train dispatched as quickly as possible; and 2) I find that park employees tend to be pretty close-mouthed about any procedural issues. After going all the way to Michigan to ride Shivering Timbers, I found that the ride was not operating. I asked someone what the prognosis was and he said that they expected to get it up and running as soon as they were able to identify the problem. I said "If you haven't identified the problem, how do you know there's a problem?" and he said "I'm not at liberty to say." Anyway, they did get it up and running.

Gosh, pushing the launch buttons on TTD would be so much fun! As to MF, some of the ride ops really get into it. There was one young woman in particular who did her job with great enthusiasm. She would say "Millennium Force, of course! Bye, yellow train; toodles, I'll miss you!" That type of approach gives me a good feeling before I even start up the lift hill.

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Monday, May 13, 2013 3:30 PM

I found the ride ops at Cedar Point to be exceptionally entertaining, especially at Top Thrill Dragster. They'd spout off little factoids and make jokes and stuff. Sometimes the crew at Nitro at SFGrAdv is also extremely fun.

Back issues are no fun. That's why I want to get as many coasters done as soon as possible because my back soon will not allow me to ride at all. Thank you, nursing. You are the gift that keeps giving. >:(

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Thursday, May 16, 2013 2:43 PM

bunky666 said:

I found the ride ops at Cedar Point to be exceptionally entertaining, especially at Top Thrill Dragster. They'd spout off little factoids and make jokes and stuff. Sometimes the crew at Nitro at SFGrAdv is also extremely fun.

Back issues are no fun. That's why I want to get as many coasters done as soon as possible because my back soon will not allow me to ride at all. Thank you, nursing. You are the gift that keeps giving. >:(

Go for it! I hope your back holds up for some time to come.

My problem is needing support for my back and I get that on most coasters, but certainly wouldn't get it on standup coasters. Although I have no trouble walking, I cannot stand for prolonged periods without developing severe back pain. The first time I actually became aware of this was on my first visit to Cedar Point. After standing in line for 2 1/2 hours to get on Millennium Force, I was in agony. And while I had been apprehensive about riding a coaster with a 300-ft. drop for the first time, when I finally got to the loading area I was glad to get on the train just to have an opportunity to sit down! I then grabbed two quick rides on Blue Streak, which was certainly a letdown after MF, because there was no line and it was another opportunity to sit down with something against my back. Now, when I see long ride queues, I am forced to either get a disability pass or buy a Fast Lane pass in order to avoid standing.

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Thursday, May 16, 2013 3:49 PM

You can't stand standing.

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Thursday, May 16, 2013 4:11 PM

Boo. Hiss.

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Thursday, May 16, 2013 4:12 PM

OMG STAHP! Seriously, stop it. Just cut it out.

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Thursday, May 16, 2013 4:52 PM

I just thought I'd throw out something about the private tours..

Last fall we went to Cedar Point for Halloweekends for the first time, and I sent an email to guest relations concerning the fact that I'm an engineering student, and would love to have a behind the scenes tour of some of the rides. I got a response back from Robin Innes, who seemed delighted to do so. He picked me up at the Breakers an hour before early entry, and took me around MF, Skyhawk and TTD. Most things I saw were visible to the general public, minus the control room for MF and Skyhawk. He told me he could not let us go inside the hydraulic room of TTD because of an agreement with Intamin, which didn't make sense to me since I've seen videos and pictures of tours inside those rooms. I was still grateful he took time out of his day for that.

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